It’s been exactly 1 year since I started my medical health coaching brand. I’ve talked about it in a few blog posts and have talked about it on my podcast as well.
I started a health coaching brand because I wanted to have more options in the future as a physician. It’s also a great way to practice medicine without … practicing medicine. Lemme ‘splain.
The Traditional Healthcare Model
In traditional medicine we see patients pushed onto our schedule by insurance companies. The real relationship isn’t between doctor and patient but patient-insurance or patient-clinic. That’s why it’s rather easy for patients to complain about their doctor online.
In the insurance model the patient isn’t engaged. They bought this insurance product to offload their health responsibility.
At the same time, the patient is at the mercy of the insurance companies and test results. They don’t bother getting second opinions because each physician will give them a completely different answer. Few people are happy with the current healthcare model in the US.
The lack of transparency, the paperwork chaos, the fear of personal data breaches … there are so many factors which cripple the patient. It’s a fucked up, outdated model. And patients are exiting it or at least looking for alternative models.
Mainstream Health Coaching
There are tons of “health coaches” online. Many view this as too much competition, but I view it as the perfect opportunity to capitalize on this patient trend.
Health coaching is popular because many healthcare consumers have realized that they won’t get meaningful results from their doctor’s office.
Health coaching adds the human element into the clinician-patient relationship. The health coach offers emotional support and empowers the patient – the opposite of mainstream western medicine which tends to be a bit too paternal, or at best best maternal.
Mainstream health coaches also aren’t physicians. This is important because healthcare consumers have lost faith in us physicians. For which we aren’t fully to blame … but we aren’t exactly chaste.
Medical Health Coaching
December of last year (2018) I decided to build out a medical health coaching brand. From my experience of building up this website I knew that I could make the medical health coaching brand succeed.
I felt that there would be a need for physicians in the health coaching market. Especially with so many laypersons in it, it was getting diluted by those who didn’t know enough to do the job right.
But don’t get it twisted, there are very intelligent and dedicated people in the health coaching space. Some of the laypersons are the smartest and most dedicated of the bunch.
No hiding behind your diploma in the health coaching space. It’s about creating results and keeping your client engaged.
#1. Perfect Fit
What I enjoy about medical health coaching is that the patient selection is the opposite of the current health insurance model. I get to choose the patient and the patient gets to choose me based on my exact identity.
Because of social media and the ease of marketing, my potential clients can know exactly what I’m about. If they don’t like my style, don’t like my voice, don’t believe in my clinical thinking, they can search for a better fit.
This way, neither of us will waste the other person’s time.
#2. Complex Cases
Most health coaches won’t take on someone with cancer getting chemo or a diabetic on insulin. Or if they do, they’ll have to contend with their client’s physician team.
As a physician I can take on the most complex of patients. Organ transplant, on biologics, on long-term steroids… bring it. Family Medicine, bitches! ?
#3. Patient-Doctor Relationship
The traditional patient-doctor relationship is tough. Fortunately, most go really well. Many are incredibly fulfilling. But I hardly worry about what I already expected to go well in my career.
The patient-doctor relationship doesn’t need to exist in a medical health coaching service. I serve the role of an expert and the client is the one who is picking my clinical brain.
I want to be their champion, their cheerleader, their advocate, and their confidant. In this coaching role I’m not the prescriber; they have their own physician team for that. I’m not ordering blood work and I’m not performing procedures on them.
#4. Legal Matters
Can you give medical advice to a patient without being their doctor? Yes. But you have to understand the patient-doctor relationship in great detail and how it related to the Medical Practice Act.
My medical health coaching brand is meant to provide access to me as a health expert. I don’t want to be someone’s physician. And to do so I have to make sure that I don’t swim in both waters. Doable.
#5. Lifetime Relationship
I look back to my patients at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego and there are a few patients I miss. I would love to still be their doctor.
But that’s the thing, the patient-doctor isn’t a relationship at all … it’s a legal definition; it’s a contractual agreement between 2 people, as I was reminded by various state medical boards, my lawyer, and by the professionalism course I took.
But as a medical health coach I can have my relationship with that patient for life. No matter what country they move to, I can be their health coach. No matter how many times they change their insurance, I’ll be their medical health coach for life.
In my insurance-paid clinic I can’t specialize much as a Primary Care doctor, In fact, you can hardly specialize as an orthopedist, rheumatologist, or podiatrist. Ya gonna see whatever pays the bills.
In the medical health coaching model I get to build out my brand any way I like. I get to focus on a niche topic and signal to potential clients what I am expert in.
Can you call yourself an expert in anything in the medical field? There are a few bold, brave doctors who do. But it’s hard.
In the health coaching world I can step onto the scene and claim to be a fertility expert. I can be an acne or arthritis expert.
#8. Remote Work
I see primary care and much of medicine moving online. I suspect that the majority of our patient interaction in the future will be digital.
Even if that won’t pan out, a ton of healthcare is practiced online these days. And medical health coaching lends itself perfectly to being practiced online.
My clients can take me anywhere with them. I can be on speakerphone while they are meeting with their specialists. I can have a group chat with them and their partner – whatever is needed.
I don’t have to give up traditional medicine. I can still see some patients in a traditional insurance clinic. But I care more about the freedom I can enjoy as a digital nomad physician.
Building My Health Coaching Brand
I’m doing everything I’ve done with my UCC brand – writing, videos, podcasts, marketing, search engine optimization, connecting, learning the lingo, etc.
To build out my health coaching brand I will publish as much as possible in order to demonstrate to my potential clients what I am an expert in.
I haven’t figured out what topic I want to specialize in. Once I figure that out, I will start giving interviews on various podcasts and YouTube channels.
This helps with exposure and allows potential clients to find me. I’ve learned to be comfortable on camera and behind a microphone.
In order for my clients to find me – especially the right sort of clients – I need to share as much knowledge for free as possible.
Want to know how to manage your osteoarthritis without joint replacement surgery? Go on my website and podcast and watch my videos and you’ll know everything you need to know – broadly.
Want to know how to manage your particular case or don’t want to spend all of that time looking through my shit? Hire me as your medical health coach. Or pay for a consulting session.
The health coaching community is a tight knit one, which I rather enjoy. We all have the same goal, to serve our clients and make them healthier.
Networking or connecting is important in this space. And because I want to eventually specialize in a particular health topic, I can get referrals from and offer referrals to various specialists in the health coaching space.
It’s only been a year and so the majority of my marketing has been by building out my website and recording the podcasts.
The next step in marketing is to create ads on various social media channels. Also, it’s important that I get my name out to other health coaches.
A brand specialist is a good person to hire to clean up my logo and my website. But that can come in the future.
Clients in the health coaching space gravitate towards those with the most dogmatic opinions. So, unfortunately, you sort of need to develop a schtick. Something which helps you stand out and defines your brand.
To do that you need to learn a lot. I don’t care if you are the smartest GI doctor in your hospital, health coaching is a different beast. You have to learn all of the facets of GI which patients will come across.
For my brand I need to be as familiar with mainstream western medicine as well as alternative medical practices.
I have earned sporadic income from this by offering 1-time consults to various individuals. My intention is to hone my skills as a health coach which is very different from being a physician.
I can’t hide behind my prescription pad as a medical health coach. I need to master my behavioral psychology skills and my customer service skills.
On the low-end, when you first get started, expect to charge around $100 per consult. But the long-term plan is to have ongoing client relationships with monthly retainers, somewhere in the $500/month range.
I am in no rush for this brand to succeed or to become lucrative. It could happen in the next year or over the next decade.
If I continue learning, if I continue publishing relevant content, the right clients will eventually find me.
If I was in a rush to get this off of the ground then I would hire a branding expert and use a marketing agency to build my medical health coaching practice faster.
I would pay for these services by doing more per diem gigs in the clinic.